THE WORD PERSONS
What makes someone a person? According to Oneness the name Jesus is applied to the titles of father Son and Spirit. So it becomes the name which officially makes one a person such as in Mt.28 baptism.
What has happened is that this movement is arguing against a name. They are missing the object behind those titles which are persons. The point is who are they, not just what they are called. Its a matter of identity as persons.
Speaking in human terms for one to be a father they must have a son. For one to be a Son they must have a Father. This requires two individual persons. Biblically this is not mean literal Father or Son but communicating a relationship of love and communion. Both are eternal as the Son and the Father, this means they are in this state of being individuals forever. No matter what title is applied to them it doesnt change who they are as individual persons.
Commenting on the Sabelllian heresy Dr. William Cooke writes,"; that the distinctions indicated by the terms "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" are not real and personal, but nominal or official; Now this doctrine is equally repugnent to the threefold name ascribed to Jehovah in the great commission, and in the formulae of baptism. It is , indeed, directly contrary to the natural and obvious meaning of language. It is to assert our Lord has used words without meaning; not only so, but that he has used them in a sense contrary to their usual and proper signification.
When we use the word person we are trying to differentiate between who is who in personality. For in all languages the words Father and Son are personal and not nominal designations; to say our Lord intended these words to have merely nominal signification, while in all languages they have a personal signification, is to say he employed language more likely to deceive than to instruct; and not only so, but he commanded others to perpetuate the same deception down to the end of time;"(Christian theology 5th ed. P.67-73)
We believe that Abraham, Moses, John and Peter were not only persons, but different persons, Yet, nowhere does it specifically say they are persons. When we read of angels such as Michael or Gabriel we know they are persons, just as we know Satan, who is a Spirit being, is a person. Yet the Bible never specifically says they are persons. The term "person" should not be restricted to human beings, since angels are personal subjects also. Using this word is an accommodation to our human language to show individual identity. The term "person" was chosen to convey the concept that the Father, Son and Spirit each have their own consciousness. The three have always been and will be together in union as the one "being" called God. When we hear such statements as the Bible never says they are three persons, it is an appeal to ignorance. There are many words used to describe doctrines that are found in the Scripture. The word Bible is not specifically found in the Bible, should we dispense with that too? Certainly the word Oneness is not! Neither are there such words as office, plural manifestations, roles or modes.
If God is a personal being, a person, (not a human person of course) than the Father is a person, so is the Son and the Holy Spirit. Even if we would say that these titles are modes, the one who is in that mode is a person. Then each time one of these appears, they are a person. So when the Father appears he is that person who is God, and when the Son appears he is that person. Therefore by their own logic if all three appear at the same time, they are three persons. God who became man is a person not a percentage. According to some Oneness teachings he must dilate his Spirit since he is only one person. So then we still face the problem of, how can Jesus be God the Father on earth and still speak to God the Father in heaven? These are persons not percentages of nature that communicate. Understanding that God is three persons cannot be resolved by reasoning alone, but by careful examination of how God has revealed Himself in the Scripture.
When God appears with two other men who are angels to visit Abraham in Gen.18:1-5 he conversed with him. Were they all not persons, having their own personalities ,mind and will and even bodies.
Even the way image of God is used is in reference to a person. the penalty for murder in Gen.9:6 was on the basis that the victim was made in the image of God. When it says Jesus is the exact image of God should we not think of him as a person who has the nature of God. And in who's image is he exactly like? Another who is a person. If the image is a person so is the one he is the image of.
Oneness claims Father and Son are only titles of a single person, who is God.
The terms of the Son and Father are not titles of a single person, but different titles that belong to two different personalities.
The Son is a title of a person- Does one know of any sons that are not persons?
The Father is a title of a person- Does one know of any fathers who are not persons?
in 1 Jn. he writes "to you little children, to you fathers, you men. According to their own interpretation these are titles and they are not individual persons. If your child called you daddy or father you would answer them wouldnt you ? are you not a person?
The title "Lord Jesus Christ" is a proper name. It is never used of the Father or the Spirit in the New Testament. We do not find anywhere, Jesus the Son calling his Father Jesus. It is the exclusive term for the Son of God after his resurrection given to him by the Father Acts 2:36, Phil.2:11. while scripture calls all three Lord (equal to Yahweh in the Septuagint)only The son is called the Lord Jesus Christ.
The term "Son of God" describes Christ's position and his true deity. The term "Son of Man" describes His true humanity. Therefore, the Son of God refers to the order of eternity, and the Son of Man refers to the order of time. In Judaism, for one to be called the son of meant that he had the same nature as his Father. To call Jesus the Christ is equal to him being the Son according to Acts 9:22. "As Paul preached he is the Christ the Son of God", Not the Father.
For modalism to be true, the person to which the titles, Father or Son or Holy Spirit apply to , must possess all the same properties, regardless of what role he is functioning in. If two things have every property in common, then they are in actuality one thing. However, if there is only one property that is not the same in the two, then they are separate entities. If something is true of the Son that is not true of the Father, then the Son is not identical with the Father , and oneness is wrong. This also means if he is not different in person then he must be different in nature which would then make him not God ! So either the Son is God as the Father is God or he is not God.
In order for Modalism (singleness of the personhood of God) to be correct, there must be nothing false of one mode or role, which is not also false of another mode. If there is just one thing true of one, which is not true of another , then the two cannot be the same entity, and Modalism is false. (Adapted from Francis Beckwith) If their premise of singularity is an absolute then it must be consistent from mode to mode. Since God does not change what makes him God is his nature.
There are numerous texts throughout the Bible which indicate communication and relationship between the persons. The plain sense of scripture indicates three distinct persons. To come to any other conclusion is to violate the plain sense of scripture and the English language.
Consider the following:
Jesus is called the one and only mediator between God and man. This means that the Son of God has a property that is possessed by neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit, since He is the only mediator.(1 Timothy 2:5)
For one to be a mediator, there must be three separate parties. Jesus is the advocate for one party (humanity) towards the other party (God). He is the bridge between 2 other persons having the nature of both parties, Human and divine as one person.
You can blaspheme the Son and the Father and be forgiven but not the Spirit, its not because God is the Holy Spirit and not the Father and Son. The Father and the Son are also God and share in common deity too.
The Bible tells us it was the Son who was incarnated it was the Son who was begotten. It was the Father who was the begetter. If one makes them all one person then it was the Father who was incarnated and died for our sins. In referring to Jn.8:19,24-25, 27 Bernard states "Jesus tried to tell them that he was the father and the I AM,"(p.67) As we will see this then destroys numerous doctrines in the Christian church such as the virgin birth, the Father and Son relationship, the mediatorship and high priestly role of the Son, the resurrection and 2nd coming. Just about everything becomes confused and we lose the eternal Son.
These are excerpts from the book Who is Jesus ? Answering Oneness Pentecostals attacks on the Trinity. spiral book by Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason ministries Wahiawa HI 96786